My first performance with Elvis was on stage at The International Hilton in Las Vegas. I was concentrating so hard learning my parts that I have very little memory of the show. I do remember being awe-struck. The crowd was wild and screaming. The orchestra was huge and the sound was heavenly, unlike anything I had ever heard live. The background singers, which I was a part of, were all tight and the harmonies were magnificent. And then there was the man himself, Elvis. How do you put into words what he looked and sounded like? It feels strange for me, as a man, to say he was beautiful but it’s the truth. His outfit, his hair, his face, his demeanor, his voice were all something very unique and beautiful. I would never get over being in awe and star-struck whenever he came on stage or walked into the room.
I have often been asked why I haven’t written a book about my life and times with Elvis. My first thought has always been, does the world really need another book written by someone in Elvis’s entourage? I don’t think so. Everything has already been written about the man from everyone’s perspective. If I had secrets to tell, I wouldn’t tell them. He was my friend and I loved him.
It’s well known that Elvis had a special fondness for bass singers. There was always at least one bass vocalist on every recording and concert he did. First there was Ray Walker of the Jordanaires, then Armond Morales of the Imperials. Then, in the 70’s came JD Sumner along with Richard Sterban. Yes, not one but two bass vocalists. When Richard Sterban left the show to join the famous Oak Ridge Boys, Elvis & JD hired me. In the latter years of his concerts he featured the bass voice of JD Sumner several times throughout the show. JD would do his signature bass slide at the end of a lot of the big ballads and at the end of the show. After I had been with Elvis for a couple of years he gave me a short feature and special recognition when I would double him on the last line of, “It’s Now Or Never”. He would introduce me afterward as his, “alter ego”. Doesn’t sound like much but it was thrilling for me. Being a part of his show and getting to experience the energy, sound and excitement night after night was an amazing, unbelievable time in my life.
In that spirit, I want to dedicate this recording in memory of Elvis.
I have become keenly aware of the fact that everyone who was personally involved with Elvis and his music all have expiration dates. Seems like we lose someone almost every year. There will be a time, in the not too distant future, when there will no longer be original band members and backup singers left for the fans to meet. I was honored to be a part of more than 200 concerts with the King. The music he made changed history.
This is my motivation for making this recording.
Knowing that I wasn’t going to write a book, I still wanted to leave something tangible that would represent my contribution to Elvis’s recordings and live shows. Elvis loved Gospel music more than anyone I’ve ever known. His dream, as a young man, was to one day sing with a gospel quartet. Thankfully, he didn’t go down that path.
For my record, I chose 4 old hymns that Elvis loved and recorded, as well as a couple of country songs that I personally like. I hope you enjoy my version of these great, old songs.